Posts Tagged ‘roman’

Mike Mills’ Beginners

Posted: November 21, 2011 by antoniobunt in Angry Man, Neglected Sundays
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Without a doubt, Mike Mills’ Beginners is one of the best films of this 2011 that is going straight to its end in some weeks.

Since I have only three students in one class at one of  the universities I teach at and they are not very participative and since the subject I “teach” them is Camera and Lighting II where we get to watch movies, I told them to get films for the class and later comment about their image attributes (something they’ve never done so far and I lost hope to see this in my lifetime), besides, Miss Dawn‘s clon attends that class and it’s really disturbing and uncanny.

Anyway, one of my students took a bootleg copy of the film he downloaded overnight and it was this neglected jewel. Last week, I went to see it again to the National Film Archives in Mexico City since it was the only venue that still screened it. It was released commercially in theatres but it soon was taken out as I guess audiences realised it was an intelligent (BRILLIANT!) film and it was not a Farelly Brothers idiotic film or 30 minutes or less.

To my surprise, this little film (and I say little not in a pejorative way what so ever!) has appealed to some people as the theatre was packed and I guess word-of-mouth has been crucial to keep this movie alive as Saint Georges Mélies intended.

In this film, Ewan McGregor plays Oliver, a thirtysomething illustrator who, remembers his dying aging father Hal (played magnifently by Christopher Plummer) who reveals he is gay soon after his wife dies. Oliver then meets Anna, a French actress (played by French actress Mélanie Laurent) who also has to deal with her own demons from the past as they become more committed as a couple.

This film is a great mix of great acting that gives birth to great and enduring characters even Arthur, Hal’s “orphan” dog, the houses, cars, objects (Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki states that objects speak for themselves) and Oliver’s illustrations by Mills himself are well designed characters and that comes from an intelligent script that is structured through flashbacks.

Mike Mills,  known for his illustration cover art for artists such as the Beastie Boys, Beck or Sonic Youth, is a self-taught filmmaker who made commercials and music videos (most notably Air’s Sexy Boy), was first interested in documentary work, inspired by the Maysles brothers and Errol Morris. Afterwards, he shot narrative shorts and was a founding member of The Director’s Bureau with fellow director Roman Coppola (another filmmaker with a neglected jewel: CQ)

Mills brings us a remarkable film, a combination of melodramatic comedy with a romantic one, without ever falling into the corny side of Meg Ryan’s films in the mid-1990’s, sentimental but always with a self-contained acting anchored to reality. In short, this film leaves you a great flavour, that life can be indeed painful at times and that we all carry the burden of the past in our shoulders but it shows that love can be present in different states and stages.

It is an optimistic human tale that achieves an intensity seldom seen in big-budget films, this is a great film that also speaks about the nostalgia of memories and how they define us. I really can’t praise enough this film.

Have a great week and remember: in the cinema, the guy who always has the final word, is the one you sells you the pop-corn!

(Mike Mills’ biographic lines come from the extint RES magazine issue Volume 4 Number 4 from July/August 2001)

Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor star in Beginners